- Bigfoot – Buried Alive
- Tastes like Taylor Street
- Wrestling & Giardiniera
- Industrial Strength Grill
- The Wisdom of Margie
- Vanishing Pond at Argonne
- Celebrities & Margie’s
- Food of the Gods
- Hand-Dipped Cherries
- Pillar of Fire
- Getty Mausoleum
- Maryville Googie
- Skyway Quaker Parrots
- Playboy Club Location
- The Chess Pavilion
Ronny Lottz is the owner of Cigars & Stripes, a Berwyn bar where you can buy cigars, hot sauce, craft beer and barbecue. He has a background in truck lettering, pin striping, and professional wrestling management. He also talks to JK about how giardiniera is very much a Chicago thing.
In this clip JK talks to Ronnie about his offset cooker, which was welded in Alabama and features truck exhaust pipes and Cadillac hubcaps. Ronnie is the proprietor of the unique Berwyn venue called Cigars & Stripes.
If you’re an enthusiast of wings, rib tips or beef sandwiches, you might be interested in what this guy has to say about outdoor grilling because his barbecue is getting great reviews on Yelp.
“Never, ever, ever have an old Cadillac with white leather seats if you’re in the barbecue business, y’know what I mean? Doesn’t seem to go hand-in-hand for some reason.” Ronnie-
JK from Bygone Chicago talks to Peter Poulos of Margie’s Candies during the high production days before Valentine’s Day in 2012. In this segment Peter speaks about the things that his mother Margie taught him about the candy business, and about life in general.
“Appreciate your help, they’re the best, they’re helping you make your business. Never give up on anything. If you fail, you have the experience of failure so you know how to get up, the ball bounces back up. So you never give up, you try and try again.”
With that, it should be mentioned that a fairly long interview was conducted at a previous time, and due to cameraman error there was absolutely no audio (I forgot to replace the battery in the microphone). Mr. Poulos was very gracious and spent even more time with us the next time we came in.
Peter Poulos tells JK about some of the celebrities that have been in the store, and what they had. Add to that list both the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, who have visited requesting to sit in the “Beatles’ Booth”.
On August 20, 1965 the Beatles visited Margie’s and sat in this very booth. It was here, on this very spot that the Fab Four and their dates, (5 girls) consumed some Atomic Busters Sundaes. It has been said that of all the Beatles, Margie had the highest opinion of John. “He was the only one who talked to me”… Such a polite lad!
Join JK as he takes a closer look at Egon Weiner‘s “Pillar of Fire”, a tall bronze sculpture that stands in front of the Chicago Fire Academy. This is also the site of O’Leary’s barn. If you know your Chicago history, you’ll also know that this is ground zero for The Great Chicago Fire of 1871… and of course the question on everyone’s mind, did the cow do it?
This highly significant work of Louis Sullivan stands in Graceland Cemetery in the Uptown neighborhood. It is said to be an the early example of the Chicago School of architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright described it as “a piece of sculpture, a statue, a great poem.” Perfectly illustrates the architectural concept of “cubic massing”.
Join JK as he takes a closer look at Chicago architect Maurice Webster’s chess pavilion. The stone sculpture work of Boris Gilbertson is also on display in this short video about Laurens Hammond’s gift to Chicago.
This location doesn’t get much traffic since the closure of the steel mills.
I am still hard at work compiling material for this section. I promise I’ll have some interesting walking (and possibly jogging) tours for you shortly!
I realize that hotdogs and blogging go hand-in-hand, but I don’t mind being cliche. One of my favorite spots to get food is at and Portillo’s. I grew up in Elmhurst, near the original location. I think I can vaguely recall the house-shaped trailer. You can take the boy out of the west suburbs, but you can’t the west suburbs out of the boy.
Among the facts that I didn’t know until I read the Portillo’s Widipedia entry was this: until the early 90′s, there was a franchise in Tokyo that licensed the Portillo’s name. Can you imagine eating a Portillo’s hotdog in Tokyo? There are also locations in Moreno Valley and Buena Park, California. The folks in Merrillville, Indiana also have a location of their own. Good to know when you’re on the road.
This vacant lot on the 8600 block of South Burley Avenue is the former location of the US Steel Chicago Works. This area of town has historically been referred to as “The Bush“, and as this land reverts back to prarie it’s easy to imagine how it got such name. Below you see the Google satellite view of the southwest corner of the property, currently home to the park district bike velodrome:
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I’ve always been loyal to Jays chips, not just because my name is Jay, but also for the same reason most Chicagoans are loyal to anything (including sports teams)… Jays is an example of an honest, unpretentious, great regional brand. Following an acquisition by Snyders of Hanover, Jays Foods closed the doors on its Chicago manufacturing plant in December of 2007. I know, this was awhile ago… I decided to include this feature after seeing this:
Auction – processing equipment – Jays Foods
Many people were caught unaware of the plant closing, partially because of Jay’s steadily shrinking market share since the early 1990′s. It just couldn’t compete with prevalence of the Lay’s products, and that company’s efforts to gain product placement dominance in big store chains. Also, many chain stores have begun selling other private label brands under their own name. Panera Bread recently pulled all Jays products from it’s store chain to begin selling chips in their own packaging, another devastating blow. Someone needs to give Jays some props, so I decided to do some investigation, to see what I could learn about Jays Potato Chips, it’s founder and this brand’s history in Chicago:
Leonard Japp was the son of a Minnesota railroad worker. In 1921, after graduating from high school, Japp jumped on a moving milk train to Chicago. Once in town, he worked as a lifeguard at the ever-popular Oak Street beach. One of his lifeguard colleagues was a young Johnny Weismuller, who would gain fame as an Olympic gold medalist swimmer, and also as film actor, portraying Tarzan on the big screen. But that wasn’t Japp only brush with show business fame. As a boxer, he would occasionally spar with another aspiring boxer named Leslie Townes Hope… Hope went on to stardom after changing his first name to Bob.
In 1927, Leonard partnered with a friend to start a concession business called Japp & Gavora. The basis for the entire business was one truck, from which sandwiches, pretzels and cigarettes were sold. Japp had observed the speakeasy culture in Chicago, and determined that there was an opportunity to sell snacks, since many of the bars didn’t carry any food products. As the business grew, so did the manufacturing operations. A fleet of trucks was purchased, as were frying vats, but the success was short-lived. With the Great Depression came great loss, and the assets of Japps & Gavora were forever lost when their bank went into liquidation.
In 1940, Japp went on to found a newer company called Special Foods, which was launched with the help of some winnings from a lucky bet at a racetrack. The company opened a plant on 40th Street to manufacture it’s own potato chips. Up until this point, the company had packaged and redistributed chips from another chip company, Mrs. Fletchers. Things were in full swing by 1941, when another factor began to adversely affect sales.
Anger over the attack on Pearl Harbor had created a new pejorative meaning for the Japp name, and people were avoiding the purchase of the Japp’s brand. Leonard contemplated changing the company name to “Jax”, but could not when it was discovered that there was already a beer manufacturer by that name. Finally the name “Jays” was settled upon. You may have noticed that the company name has no apostrophe, that is because there has never been a person at the company named Jay. The product dress we know and love today became complete when Jays added the “can’t stop eating ‘em!” slogan, in response to Frito-Lay’s “bet you can’t eat just one”.
Borden Foods bought Jays in 1986, but kept most of the operations the same. It was not a successful acquisition however, and within four years Borden decided to divest. It was at Leonard’s 90th birthday party (in 1994) that someone in the Japp family (it’s unsure who) masterminded the idea to repurchase the Jays name and go back into independent production. Jays was still the most successful chip in the Chicago area, but there were indications that concerns about trans fats and health were adversely affecting the sales of all potato chips brands. Corporate restructuring and newer marketing approaches helped sales for the ailing brand, as did development of the popular Krunchers name, but the national dominance of the Frito-Lay brands made this sales increase short-lived.
Sadly, in 1999 there were the untimely deaths of Leonard’s son, Leonard Jr., and his grandson, Leonard III. Shortly thereafter, Leonard himself died, changing the dynamic of the company forever. His son Steven took over management of the company, but declines in sales and ultimately bankruptcy led to it’s sale to a private equity firm in 2004. Ubiquity Foods was founded, which saw Jays Foods paired up with another snack food company, Lincoln Foods, the makers of Fiddle-Faddle. Despite the launch of “Sweet Baby Jays”, the first new product offering from Jays in years, the steady decline in sales continued, leading to the acquisition by Snyder’s. At least the Jays product will carry on, but this is just another in a string of depressing evacuations from Chicago’s snack food and candy corridor.
Apparently, we can stop eating them.